Grasshopper Plagues in Missouri

Grasshopper "Equipment" 

The use of coal-oil was employed in various ways for trapping and destroying the insects. When considering different destructive agents, coal-oil was the very best and the cheapest that could be used against the locusts. it may be used in any form and was used in various contrivances to facilitate its practical application. The main idea behind these contrivances is that of a shallow receptacle of any convenient size (varying from about 3 feet square to about 8 or 10 by 2 or 3 feet), provided with high back and sides, either mounted upon wheels or runners, or carried by hand. When pushing or carrying the coal-oil pan, the locust are startled from their places and spring into the tar or oil, when they are either entangled by the tar and die slowly, or, coming in contact with the more active portion of the oil expire almost immediately.

hopper oil pan

We give descriptions of the two models pictured as they first appeared in Mr. Riley's Locust Plague in the United States:

" A good and cheap pan is made of ordinary sheet-iron, 8 feet long, 11 inches wide at the bottom, and turned up a foot high at the back and an inch high at the front. A runner at each end, extending some distance behind, and a cord attached to each front corner, complete the pan, at a cost of about $1.50. We have known from seven to ten bushels of young locusts caught with one such pan in an afternoon. It is easily pulled by two boys, and by running several together in a row, one boy to each outer rope, and one to each contiguous pair, the best work is performed with the least labor. Longer pans, to be drawn by horses, should have transverse partitions to avoid spilling the liquid; also more runners. The oil may be used alone so as to just cover the bottom, or on the surface of water, and the insects strained through a wire ladle. When the insects are very small, one may economize in kerosene by lining the pan with saturated cloth; but this becomes less efficient afterward, and frames of cloth saturated with oil do not equal the pans. Where oil has been scarce, some persons have substituted concentrated lye, but when used strong enough to kill, it costs about as much as the oil. The oil pans can be used only when the crops to be protected are small."

 hopper oil pan

According to the Scientific American, Professor Riley, of the Entomological Commission, perfected a grasshopper machine that became known as the Riley Locust Catcher. It was intended to do away with all extra material, like coal-oil, which in the long run was expensive. Riley's machine was to work all seasons, whether the insects were just hatching or full grown. His machine was worked at Manhattan, Kansas and was given great satisfaction, and was described in the Industrialist, the organ of the Kansas State Agricultural College, as follow: "The mechanical department has constructed a new locust exterminator for Professor Riley. The machine operates upon the bagging principle. It is, briefly, a large canvas bag stretched upon a light but strong frame, and placed upon runners, which extend with curved tips a little in front of the mouth. The canvas is stretched upon the inner side of the frame, thus making the bag even and smooth within. the machine is made to "take more land" by means of two right-angled triangular wings that hinge to the upright ends of the large frame, in such manner that the rectangle joins the upper corner of the frame. From the lower side of this wing are suspended a number of teeth, or beaters, which, swinging loosely, drive the locusts inward. The machine is handled by means of two ropes hitched to the outer runners or to the outer and lower side of the mouth of the frame. On smooth ground the machine can be easily hauled by two men, but where the grass is tall and thick it pulls harder. The locusts, on hopping into the machine, soon reach the small back portion, enter a small bag, and are attracted to the rear end by the light which enters the gauze door. When a sufficient number are thus captured the machine is stopped, the cutoff is slid down in front of the secondary bag, a hole is dug behind the machine, the bag tipped into it, and the insects buried. A strip of leather closes the slit through which the cutoff slips, and the main bag is made of dark cloth, while the secondary bag is white, so as by contrast to attract more thoroughly the locusts."

locust catcher

The major advantages of this machine are that it requires no additional expense to run it, as far as oil or tar. It will catch the winged locust as well as the young, if operated on cool mornings and evenings, and is adapted to almost all conditions of growing grain.

  Visit our other pages to learn more about the Grasshopper Plagues: 

Rocky Mountain Locust Natural History
Go back to Grasshopper Gathering Equipment
Actual Missouri Accounts
Grasshoppers and a Sense of Humor
Destitute Settlers
Were they all bad?
Grasshoppers and Trains
Do we still have Grasshopper Plagues?
Missouri Legislation
What can we learn from the Grasshopper Plagues?
Damage Estimates and Restitution
Grasshopper Plague links

This page was designed and is maintained by Jason Phillips and Lyndon N. Irwin.